A Little House at No. 18

The ins and outs and inbetweens of building a new house in Little Howard St, Fremantle


Things of Wood

As the house has been built, we have both learnt so much about the skill and craft involved in each stage, from the concrete footings and slab and then the brick and limestone walls. Now it is time to move up again and start working with wood. We have always loved wood – working with wood, sailing on wooden ships and it was inevitable that our house would feature wood as part of its construction. The design brief featured this by taking its inspiration from the turn of the century warehouses with their big solid timber beams, rafters and trusses.

The carpenters came to start the roof of the back wing the week after Matilda was born*. The first few days were hectic as everyone got used to working with each other and with the plans for this new stage of construction. But it wasn’t long before the ridge beam was up followed shortly after by the rafters, lining boards, insulation, battens and tin.

Our house is designed with a cathedral ceiling – beautiful to look at, gives lots of extra space inside the house but they are notorious for being really hot (due to a lack of space between the ceiling and the roof). We hope to have overcome this in a couple of ways.

First is through insulation – we ended up going with what are essentially refrigeration panels. A 100-mm thick Polyisocyanurate (PIR) foam sandwiched between tin. While we didn’t need them to be, these panels are structural with an R-value of 5.1 (they normally get used to build cold rooms and the like)**. As an added bonus they are also fire retardant and were manufactured to the exact length we needed. The panels came as standard ‘cool room cream’ in colour so we painted the underside black (well, it was charcoal in the end, but what’s a shade of grey between friends?), purely for aesthetical reasons (see discussion on lining boards below).

The second way that we are combatting the heat from our cathedral ceiling is to actively vent the small air gap that we do have. Even now, there is a pretty strong convection current being set up but our intention is to install fans at the ridge with vents down on the eaves to force air through the ceiling space and prevent it from heating up under the tin and trying to keep the temperature within this space as close to ambient as possible.

From an aesthetic point of view, standard white plasterboard was never going to cut it in our house. We ended up getting some Marri timber milled into lining boards, 130 mm wide. These have been laid on top of the rafters with an 18mm gap between each plank (which you can see the PIR panel through – hence wanting to paint it something other than white). The photos  should capture some of the ‘look’ that we have achieved.

Now that the roof is done it nearly feels like we have a whole house (this is an illusion, of course, there is still plenty of work left to go!) But we are getting there and every day we are a little bit closer to being able to move in. Very exciting.

*Now that we have a brand new baby, the pressure is on to get this house finished before she grows up and wants to move out of home!